Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Closed Doors and Finding My Way

I'm reading an absolutely excellent book called "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell. The subtitle is "The Story of Success." While I haven't finished it yet, it has already piqued my interest and engaged me in incredible ways. The book centers around many statistics and stories about how people become successful. One thing that struck me in particular is the idea that practice and natural skill are not all that is needed for one to be successful - one also needs to have opportunities and circumstances that lead to success.

Jarrod and I often talk about how miraculous it is that we even started dating. We met in 2006 through a mutual friend. He came to a party at my house. I was totally not interested in him. I made him my facebook friend and told him it was the best decision of his life. He became very close friends with my best friend. I was dating someone else. I came to seminary and we overlapped one year. He used to sleep in the arm chairs in the library while I studied across the room. I was single. He moved to Louisiana. I was worried about going to our mutual friend's wedding so I sent him a facebook message. He was working at a church I visited many times in my previous life as a youth minister. We made a connection on facebook. We were forced to pair off at the wedding because we hung with a crew that was all paired off also. I was impulsive and took the huge risk of driving to Louisiana the weekend after the wedding because I was about to spend a month in Puerto Rico and needed to find out of this was something worth pursuing. It was and we became "facebook official." I went to Puerto Rico for a month where we cultivated our relationship on the phone. After I came back, I flew to Louisiana to see Jarrod. Hurricane Gustav hit. We evacuated for 16 hours in his little truck. And the rest is history.

I know that all relationships are like this, but seeing this all written out, it becomes very clear to me that Jarrod and I met, fell in love, and got married thanks to very specific circumstances. Without facebook, the timing of our mutual friend's wedding, his move to Slidell (to work at a church I knew well and because it made messaging him easier!), our incredible evacuation, my impromptu drive to Louisiana, the timing of my trip to Puerto Rico... All of those things had to happen when they did so that we could fall in love. We were both completely secure and happy in our own lives - that helped in the falling-in-love story as well.

Life is a series of circumstances that help shape who we become. For a good portion of my life I would focus on the doors closing - opportunities that didn't happen. Jobs that ended badly or jobs that didn't happen at all. What is the purpose of my degree? What am I going to do with my life? Is life just a series of searching for the way?

Our new associate pastor preached a sermon on Sunday that resonated in me. She shared a story about Parker Palmer, who was trying, praying, listening, and remaining still, tried as all good Quakers do in hopes of discerning God’s path for him. "Have faith," the Quakers say, "and way will open." He met much frustration in "finding way" and went to a Quaker saint and confessed his difficulty. She replied: "I’m a birthright Friend [what we call Quakers] and in sixty-plus years of living, way has never opened in front of me. . . . But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that’s had the same guiding effect." (Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, p. 38.)

I recently turned down a job that I think I would have loved. I think it would have been a great fit with my skills, experience, and what I want from life. The job could have been a great way to grow my career, shape lives, and share the love of Christ. Why did I turn it down? It wasn't my way. The way closed behind me and even though it was at my choosing, I still stood at the closed door banging.

...Until I was hit over the head with the book I'm reading and God through Pastor Lane's sermon. Like Parker Palmer, I do not know which way is mine. But I see ways that have closed behind me and have led me to the life that I am so blessed to live right now. Ways closed and created the perfect set of circumstances for Jarrod and I to fall in love. Ways closed and created my life in Slidell. Ways will close and help me to determine what my career is and how I am going to change the world.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Home for the Johnstons!

Jarrod and I have lots of new beginnings going on right now. On Saturday we moved into a new condo. We moved across town to have more space, cheaper rent, and a beautiful neighborhood. Jarrod said the other day about the unpacking process that we need a shoehorn to get our life into a place that wasn't built for us. He's absolutely right. I know we felt like this when we moved into our first place, but I was so preoccupied with getting married, I didn't really notice.

It all started on Thursday. Jarrod and I had boxes and a grill in our vehicles when we pulled up to our new place to receive the keys. We wandered the place with the landlord, checking out things and seeing how many flying termites had died everywhere. :-) Once the landlord left, Jarrod helped me carry all of my boxes in and get the grill situated. Jarrod went back to work and I started cleaning. I vacuumed the entire place, thanks to a vacuum that comes with the condo. When I had most of the little buggy wings cleaned up, I started unpacking. Most of the boxes I brought over were kitchen stuff, so I got to unpack and put things where I wanted them.

On Friday Courtney and I spent the day loading a HUGE cargo van with all of our boxes. We did one load before lunch, had a delicious lunch at Sunrise on Second Street (my new favorite!), and went back for more. The second trip included instruments, clothing, and other boxes. By the time I had to get back to work in the afternoon we had moved ALL of the boxes and "stuff" from our old apartment. All that was left was furniture. I did spend some time at the new place unpacking what I could, organizing closets, and making sure the kitchen was the way I wanted.

Saturday was Jarrod's-a-Rock-Star Day. I hope you celebrated, because we sure did! At 9am Jarrod had a crew of 4 AWESOME men from our church help load the cargo van, minivan, SUV, and trailer with everything that was left at our old apartment. The men then moved everything into the new place and were completely done by 11:30am! Of course this just began the frustrating and exhausting journey of unpacking, moving things around, hanging pictures, deciding where things go, etc.

On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday Jarrod and I hung our cross wall, pictures,  and curtains, organized our books, did a lot of laundry, and are making the condo feel much more like home.

As you can see from above, at least Sophie and Lucy are happy. No idea where Oliver is... ;-)
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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Anxiety to Peace

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:7
This blog post has been in the works for almost two weeks. It has been a very busy time for the Louisiana Johnstons. My job really picked up last week. I worked over 70 hours last week and Jarrod was up there nearly everyday as well - in addition to his own job! I am absolutely loving my job, but it is definitely difficult and stressful. Here's how my week began.

Two weeks ago on Monday morning I woke up joyful. I was excited to meet the staff and get started. By 11am I was fearful...I found out that my contract with one of my part time jobs was ending early. My contract was supposed to end in July, but after surviving several rounds of cut-backs, my time had finally come. I loved this job and am so sad to leave, but am not surprised and am proud to have lasted as long as I did. A small dark cloud was added to my Monday. That coupled with several Murphy's Law-esque  financial disasters, I feel a weight on my chest that I can't shake.

On the flip side, my other part time job has gotten absolutely crazy this week. We have hit the ground running and will be sprinting through the end of the summer. The gift of more time to devote to that job couldn't have been timed better. I have an absolutely incredible staff on board for this summer. Our cook is going to make me gain back the weight I've lost. My interns are absolutely delightful and are not only good at their job, but also have excellent character. The support that I've gotten from my husband and sister has been invaluable.

Fast forward through our staff week, our first group finally arrived one week ago. We had ninety volunteers from Arizona with us. It was chaotic, but incredible. My staff worked very hard and shared love and grace even when it was a challenge. Now it is Sunday again and the stress and anxiety I felt last week has subsided. We made it through the first and largest group. We didn't just survive, but thrived. Lives were changed on the construction sites, through worship, and relationships were built.

This week we have scheduled group building, crafts, organization, and a trip into New Orleans. After our second staff week we have a smaller group before we take a week off to allow the church use of the whole facility for VBS. During that week Jarrod and I will be moving across town. It's a busy time, but it's a lot of fun.

Hopefully this update isn't too all over the map for you. I'll leave you with a picture of this super cute apron that I won!
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